EDITOR’S Note: When we first ran this story the SIG Virtus was still difficult to find on dealer’s shelves. As one of the most reliable semi-autos we’ve ever seen tested, it’s worth looking at again if you are in the market for enhanced reliability. There’s a reason that the SIG Virtus is the weapon of choice for many of the military’s “special teams.”
Last month, I was handed the new SIG Sauer Virtus rifle for review, my first test item in the MCX family. Though initially, I was skeptical, the Virtus turned out to be very impressive weapon system. It uses a unique operating system, an entirely new piston driven action developed in-house by SIG Sauer.
Between that and the user barrel change capability, this is a great leap forward in rifle technology. Still, questions remained. As a retired soldier, some habits die hard. I always look at new and wonder about the durability. The first thing my unit always did with something new was going beat the living shit out of it, to ensure it wasn’t going to quit at some critical time. When you roll around Indian Country in a six- or 12-man team for a living, you have to know your equipment works.
Like many of you, I lived through the “piston revolution” of the early 2000s. The “new” idea of a piston in place of a gas tube was going to take the AR-15/M16 family into the future. We all know how well that worked out. Piston systems tended to be heavy, recoil like a train wreck, and introduced new problems in place of old ones. Also an issue, they tended to lack the accuracy of direct impingement rifles, a deal killer when normal AR’s were rapidly approaching a 1 MOA standard. Pistons slowly began to die off. The alleged reliability gain was small potatoes since it turns out normal AR-15’s are incredibly reliable in the modern era anyway.
The SIG, out of the box, proved to be a different animal. The recoil is extremely mild on this platform, it isn’t front heavy, and accuracy is as good as anything. I started this week’s video with groups around 1 MOA, which then shrank to ¾ MOA, and finally turned in two separate ½ MOA 100m groups. We can reasonably assume I got warmer on shooting, the gun was capable all along. Those are impressive numbers, ½ MOA being the best I can do with anything on most days.
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No Parts Replacement for 20,000 Rounds?
My big question with this weapon is the durability. SIG says it shouldn’t need any parts replacement for 20,000 rounds, which is amazing. They also contend the piston system is extremely reliable and will outperform any direct impingement (DI) rifle. Now 20,000 rounds would require a huge investment of ammo and time to test. But we do want to know. So we devised a test to short circuit that number.
I’ve taught a lot of CQB in the U.S. Army, so I know a way to get a DI gun so dirty in short order that it will stop functioning. Suppressors filthy a gun up like you wouldn’t believe if you don’t own one. In my experience, even rattle trap government guns will stop working correctly around 500 rounds of suppressed fire. So I proposed to SIG that we should run a test on the VIRTUS, 2,000 rounds suppressed without a cleaning. In typical SIG fashion, not only did they cowboy up, they provided the ammo.
If the VIRTUS continues to run flawlessly, it will be incredible. And the boys at SIG seem to think it will. That is a huge milestone. But I do want to know exactly how much punishment we can dish out, and the test if successful will be of massive benefit to the normal consumer. If I can go 2,000 rounds suppressed without a cleaning, you should be able to go 10,000 un-suppressed. Clean your rifle once a year, whether it needs it or not.
Predictions wise, I think we might have to take the suppressor off and knock the carbon out of it every 600 to 800 rounds. That is not a functional issue, it’s an accuracy one. In my experience in the military, carbon build-up starts to really play hell with group size around that time.
This also allows us to really wring out the SIG SRD556. SIG has been batting them out of the park in suppressor technology this year, and we have the SRD556 in-house.
During accuracy testing this week, the first thing I wanted to know was suppressor shift and was it repeatable. SIG uses a taper lock system on their barrels, which is supposed to increase repeatability. Initial tests say this is correct. In five cycles of taking the suppressor off and reinstalling, my shift was exactly the same each time. The SRD556 also proved hearing safe even with supersonic ammunition. Shooting the first 300 rounds of this test without earplugs was a nice change!
We have many rounds left to send down range, enough that this test will be at least a three-part series. I have a bunch of challenges lined up for this rifle over the next month. It is winter, so we can add extreme heating and cooling cycles to that list for good measure. If you have a test you are curious about, add it to the comments section. And we will be back in a few weeks with Part Two.
For more information about the SIG Sauer Virtus, click here.
To purchase a SIG Sauer Virtus on GunsAmerica, click here.